20th-century design icons in the spotlight at Wright, March 30
CHICAGO – Dedicated to the most influential and important designs of the 20th century, Wright‘s Design sale, scheduled for Thursday, March 30, is a celebration of visionary creators from across the globe. From iconic standards to one-of-a-kind works, this highly vetted auction brings together the quality craftsmanship and ambitious vision that defined the past 100 years and continues to shape the way we live today. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.
Highlights include a Carlo Mollino unique Copenhagen chair, a Shiro Kuramata Feather stool, works by Fernando and Humberto Campana, a Rei floor lamp by Studio Wieki Somers, sculpture by Harry Bertoia, designs by George Nakashima, Ettore Sottsass, Gio Ponti, Jean Prouve and Pierre Jeanneret, and even a first-generation iPhone.
Two historic works by leading Italian architect Carlo Mollino will be offered during the March 30 Design auction. In December 1951, Mollino was invited to take part in Kunsthandværkets forarsudstilling, the Spring Arts and Crafts Exhibition organized by the Danish Arts and Crafts Society, to be held in Copenhagen in 1952. Mollino enthusiastically accepted and proposed exhibiting a new type of chair in “continuous plywood” that he would create specifically for the occasion. The result would become known as Mollino’s Copenhagen chair, and only one of these innovative, sculptural seating forms was ever made. It appears in the sale lineup with an estimate of $200,000-$300,000. The other Mollino example in the auction is a coffee table, model 1114, which was commissioned by Singer & Sons in 1950, but very few were ever produced. Its estimate is $50,000-$75,000.
The sale also features impressive designs by other modern Italian figures, such as Pietro Chiesa, Ettore Sottsass, Gio Ponti, Carlo de Carli, Gianfranco Fini and Gino Sarfatti. Along with Chiesa’s 1938 cabinet in mirrored crystal and bronze for Fontana Arte, estimated at $50,000-$70,000, the auction boasts two colorful, architectural works by Sottsass: a Mobile bar created for the Gallery Mourmans in Maastricht, Netherlands in 1994, estimated at $30,000-$50,000; and a red glazed ceramic vase, model Y37 from the Yantra series, produced by Bitossi for Design Centre/Poltronova in 1969 and estimated at $10,000-$15,000.
Japan’s Shiro Kuramata, who helped found the Memphis Group with Sottsass in the late 1980s, has two boldly transparent designs in the March 30 auction. One is an acrylic Feather stool, cast with a trio of feathers suspended within its structure and estimated at $40,000-$60,000; the other is a sharp-angled Glass chair, an example of which is fittingly part of the permanent collection of the Corning Museum of Glass. Its estimate is $30,000-$50,000. From the Dutch Studio Wieki Somers comes a Japanese-inspired Rei floor lamp, estimated at $20,000-$30,000, which takes its name from one of the seven tenets of samurai code, in this case, for “the right action.” Numerous striking designs by Japanese-American studio craft woodworker George Nakashima are also part of the sale, including an elegantly contoured Slab coffee table estimated at $25,000-$35,000, as well as an Isamu Noguchi Rudder stool, model IN-22 for Herman Miller, estimated at $20,000-$30,000.
While Design showcases the potential of wood, glass and acrylic, the auction also has a stunning selection of modern and contemporary metalwork. There are seven different Harry Bertoia works on offer, including some of his iconic Sonambient and Spray examples. One of Bertoia’s Sonambient sculptures in beryllium copper and naval bronze is truly monumental, standing more than 15 feet tall. It has an estimate of $100,000-$150,000. Another Bertoia sculpture on offer is a Multi-Plane Construction composed of melt-coated brass over steel with an applied patina and estimated at $40,000-$60,000.
In addition to the Bertoia works, the sale contains Brazilian brothers Fernando and Humberto Campana’s unique Flama chair, which evokes a postmodern, surrealist fantasy. It has an estimate of $30,000-$50,000. Marc Newson’s nickel-plated bronze Random Pak Twin sofa (estimated at $30,000-$50,000) and Paul Evans’ torch-cut, blackened and polychromed steel coffee table (estimated at $10,000-$15,000) both gesture toward the intricacy of organic forms. Jean Prouve’s bench from the Electricite de France, Marcoule, estimated at $20,000-$30,000, has a sleek yet sophisticated lacquered steel frame. Finally, Margaret De Patta’s Necklace pendant in sterling silver and stone works through subtle geometric abstraction. It carries an estimate of $10,000-$15,000.
The auction on March 30 also features a factory-sealed Apple Inc. first-generation iPhone, model A1203 from 2007, estimated at $40,000-$60,000. This was the first smart phone to be offered by Apple, which ushered in a new era in digital communication through an artful blend of form and function. Wright received this piece of recent design history via Donald Gajadhar of Fox-White Art & Antique Appraisals. “[It] slowly dawned on me when I held [this] boxed Apple cellphone,” said Gajadhar, “my client not only had an unopened cell phone, but a truly unique version. A Willy Wonka, ‘24 karat’ Golden Ticket.” Indeed, the original plastic wrap covering the box bears an upside-down Apple logo sticker with the words “Lucky you.” Unsurprisingly, the iPhone 1 was named the Invention of the Year in 2007 by TIME magazine. When the revolutionary device was superseded by the release of the iPhone 3G on June 9, 2008, the iPhone 1 was officially discontinued slightly more than a month later, on July 15. The rest, as they say, is history.
Click to view top auction results on LiveAuctioneers: https://www.liveauctioneers.com/pages/recent-auction-sales/